By the time I got to thinking about best proportions, it occurred to me that my distraction gear was in overdrive again. Let’s just agree that recently there have been far too many crosswords,online games, long books and Netflix binges. This kicks in whenever I feel daunted by what I’m painting, even if it was my very own benighted decision. Well, let me convince you how richly entitled I am to any and all distractions these days.
Still soldiering along on “The Turn.” You know about the dancer’s recent surgeries but I didn’t get around to telling you the story of THE ARM. Just embarking on this image with its woefully inadequate pre-digital visual references, let alone painting it three feet high, probably seems crazy. But I couldn’t overcome the urge to paint it in oil and nothing serves to exorcise an image once it is lodged in my brain like a fragment of a song but to give up and get to work. I even knew there would be serious problems right off the bat. Lo those many years ago, she had chosen a pose in which her right arm reached out on a diagonal towards the camera. Every figurative artist knows that hands are about the same size as the face measured from chin to mid-forehead, even if our universal tendency is to draw them smaller. But this hand, so close to the lens, was now unsettlingly enormous, though accurate. A male bowerbird would have had no problem, of course. (see January 7, 2019)
As if this weren’t enough, I wanted to set the figure on a vertical canvas and realized that a 3:1 ratio: 36 x 12 would nicely reinforce her tall elegance. My first thought was to let the giant hand disappear off the canvas to the right but when I blocked it in, no dice; it unbalanced the composition and drew the viewer’s eyes right off the canvas.
That’s not even the worst of it. Lacking photo reference for the dancer’s entire mid-section, I no longer even had a semi-workable hand to move around. Remember the adage about needing a village to raise a child? My paintings apparently require both a husband and a large art group. This time it was Judy, another friend/artist, who kindly pointed her fingers together and held the pose.
You would think this would do it, but the new block-in was still awkward until I realized that the dancer’s shoulder and semi-turned arm position would also have to undergo adjustment. All I had was Judy’s hand. You’ll love this part: I tried to take a selfie in the dancer’s position. Thank heavens Jon arrived home the next hour and rescued me from the virtual impossibility of getting far enough away from my iMac to even take such a shot within the allotted 3 seconds.
Great! Now all I had to do was set my feet as if in toe shoes, face away, but rotate back towards the camera and drop my shoulders, the pose culminating in my right arm and fingers artistically poised over my right hip. I will spare you the result, but I’m sure you can imagine it. I was more than a bit off the mark in every plane, but the look of panicked agony on my face at least proves that I was trying. Degas would have fainted in horror.
It has taken a solid couple of weeks just to get the value study onto the canvas. The dancer is now more or less on the go if you don’t count the slightly blue arm and the new hand that looks as if it has been parboiled. Only the Frankenstein stitches have been removed. Mary Shelley must have been a painter.
And didn’t I then enter it in an upcoming show when it is still not much more than a twinkle in my eye. I feel a thirty-stint round of Solitaire beckoning.